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Alan Catlin

Alan Catlin has been publishing for six decades. His latest full length books are Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh from Dos Madres and Lessons of Darkness from Luchador Press both published in 2020.


The Room in Which the Detainees’ Belongings Are Stored

What they owned hangs on meat hooks,
in canvas bags, from the ceiling like
sides of beef. Inside each bag, is a
short story, that begins in poverty and
ends in the grave. The room is so
antiseptic it feels like a morgue,
it feels as if you are imagining someone’s
funeral, years before it will begin.
There is such an air of permanence about
all this worthless clothing, you can
never imagine anything in here
without a tag on its toe telling
the date of death. What the photo says,
beyond that, is that you can emigrate
to America and be disappeared, if you don’t
believe it could happen, here are their possessions,
which may never be reclaimed.

Detainee Refugee Camp, USA

He looks as if he were born
to spend his life in a yard surrounded
by fifteen foot high concrete walls,
topped with rolls of barbed wires,
and buttressed by guard towers.
He looks like Harry Houdini on
a five day drunk waking up on
Riker’s Island, freshly tattooed
with iguanas on each arm and death
head skulls on each side of his chest.
“Mia madre con amor” it says, in script,
between the talking heads and the devil
looking up from his navel as if amused,
holding a trident that pokes the hull
of a ship whose mast and crew have
seen better days and much troubled water.
The man whose body contains all this woe,
bears an expression that suggests:
I can break these bonds, I can slip
free from these handcuffs, I can,
if only I knew how.

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